INDIANAPOLIS – Team Penske kept the dominating start to the Month of May going on Wednesday. A day after turning three of the top four speeds on opening day of the 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500 (11 a.m. ET/NBC/INDYCAR Radio Network) practice, a Penske driver topped the speed charts on Day 2 of action on a sun filled Wednesday afternoon.
This time, it was Josef Newgarden’s turn up front as the 2017 NTT IndyCar Series champion circled the famed 2.5-mile oval with a top lap of 228.856 mph in his No. 2 Chevrolet.
Josef Newgarden at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Wednesday – INDYCAR Media Site
Newgarden, was only 17th quickest on Tuesday but early on in the day on Wednesday, he received a big tow while running in a group which propelled him to the top of the speed charts.
The lap though, Newgarden calls irrelevant to how anything will go the rest of the month though.
“I think we need to be a bit better in traffic,” said Newgarden after turning the days fast lap. “Still trying to figure out exactly what we need on the race car, that was kind of our focus today. We didn’t really do much qualifying sims or anything like that.
“I think the Shell car feels OK. It’s not a bad start. I’m trying to stay careful with it. I always try and respect this place at the beginning. I never try and push until it’s time.”
Second on the timing charts is the defending series champion and 2008 Indy 500 winner Scott Dixon. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver turned in a speed of 228.835 mph in his No. 9 Honda on Wednesday.
Coincidentally enough, both are 1-2 in the current points standings too as Newgarden leads Dixon by a mere six points heading into next Sunday’s race.
Dixon though, says his speed is pleasing in that they strictly ran on race trim for a second straight day.
“We worked on race running pretty much all day in the PNC Bank car,” said Dixon. “We had a baseline setup that I think was pretty strong. We ran a lot of laps and tried to go through a lot of mechanical things and then with the dampers. I think we made some solid gains and then we were just trying to pick the right times to run at the end and maximize what we could learn.”
Spencer Pigot (228.658 mph) was P3 in his No. 21 Chevrolet while rookie Santino Ferrucci (228.561 mph) was fourth in his No. 19 Honda.
Helio Castroneves rounded out the top five in his No. 3 Chevrolet. The three-time Indy 500 winner circled the track with a speed of 228.441 mph.
The day saw two practice crashes, first being by Fernando Alonso. Just past the 1 p.m. ET hour, Alonso slid into the outside SAFER barrier in Turn 3 which as a result of the right side impact, sent his No. 66 Chevrolet back into the inside wall in Turn 4 which then caressed his car back up the track and into the Turn 4 SAFER barrier.
Luckily, he was able to walk away from the incident unscathed, but his car wasn’t so lucky. McLaren, decided to get the backup car out and got it ready in the event that this primary car can’t be repaired.
The second crash came minutes into Happy Hour when rookie Felix Rosenqvist lost the back end of his No. 10 Honda in the apex of Turn 2 and hit the outside SAFER barrier as a result. Like Alonso, Rosenqvist slid back down the track and luckily was evaded by Will Power and Jack Harvey but unluckily for him, went head on into the inside wall. He also was able to walk away too.
Here are the main takeaways from Wednesday’s action.
Fernando Alonso’s crashed car heads back to Gasoline Alley after a practice crash on Wednesday – INDYCAR Media Site
McLaren Is In Trouble
We all knew that Alonso would have his hands full, but not this full. McLaren Racing told us that they’d slowly get up to speed that they have a tall task in doing Indy by themselves this year.
See, in 2017, they had the help of Andretti Autosport. The car, the team, the plans, the equipment, it was all prepared by Andretti. This time, McLaren and Alonso are doing it on their own.
During the test last month, his battery was dead before he really even got going. They barely turned any laps. The last two days, they also had some mechanical issues they’ve had to sort through.
Then, the crash happened.
Right now, as weird as this sounds, but I’d put Alonso and McLaren in the danger category of not making this field.
Spencer Pigot practices ahead of teammate and car owner Ed Carpenter during practice at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway – INDYCAR Media Site
Ed Carpenter Racing Still Strong
On Tuesday, ECR was quick not only on the overall speed chart, but as well as the no tow list too. They remained there on Wednesday again.
ECR put cars 3-9-10 on the overall speed chart on Wednesday with Pigot leading the charge among the organization on Day 2.
With all three cars making the Fast Nine last year, ECR are the favorites to put all three of them in the Fast Nine again this weekend.
Rossi Happy But Says Speed Irrelevant Now
Alexander Rossi may have only been 34th quickest on Wednesday. But, don’t read too much into that. Rossi, strictly ran by himself on Day 2 and that lap actually was the quickest on the no tow list. He was in the top 10 on that list on Tuesday too, meaning his No. 27 Honda will certainly be a pole threat despite only turning the 34th fastest lap.
That’s why we shouldn’t be too worried about where he’s at on the speed chart because they know the speed is there. Rossi though, just isn’t concerned or overly joyous on where he’s at after two days.
“Nothing,” said Rossi on what he can take away from leading the no tow report. ” I mean, it’s Wednesday. It’s pretty irrelevant. It’s good, right? I mean, I think there’s inherent pace in the car, which is always a question mark coming here. We were joking earlier kind of among the drivers, the drivers are a much smaller equation at a place like this in terms of the overall performance at least in single lap pace. It’s really down to the car and the setup that you come up with. It’s a positive thing, but still, super irrelevant at this point.”
Kyle Kaiser Showing Strength
So much for Juncos being that Cinderella story. Not only have they defied all odds without having a sponsor, they’re actually really quick. Kaiser, was 11th fastest on the day on Wednesday with a top speed of 227.079 mph in his No. 32 Chevrolet. That’s a nice feat in itself, but on the no tow report, Kaiser was in the top 10 too. That’s big in that the speed is in his car to honestly solidly get into the field on Saturday.
Day 2 Indy 500 Practice Speeds
2 Newgarden 228.856
9 Dixon 228.835
21 Pigot 228.658
19 Ferrucci R 228.561
3 Castroneves 228.441
18 Bourdais 228.271
26 Veach 228.057
23 Kimball 227.472
63 Jones 227.304
20 Carpenter 227.192
32 Kaiser 227.079
4 Leist 227.038
98 Andretti 227.037
15 Rahal 227.008
22 Pagenaud 226.831
10 Rosenqvist R 226.787
30 Sato 226.765
25 Daly 226.683
77 Servia 226.683
48 Hildebrand 226.646
12 Power 226.609
31 O’Ward R 226.441
60 Harvey 226.395
14 Kanaan 226.364
33 Davison 226.063
24 Karam 225.851
28 Hunter-Reay 225.696
7 Ericsson R 225.685
66 Alonso 225.433
59 Chilton 225.430
42 King R 225.291
5 Hinchcliffe 225.259
88 Herta R 224.704
27 Rossi 224.648
39 Mann 224.448
81 Hanley R 224.361